Indigenous people free kidnapped tourists in the Peruvian Amazon



Members of an indigenous group on Friday freed more than 100 tourists they had kidnapped in Peru’s Amazon a day earlier to protest what they called government inaction after an oil spill, officials said.

Among the arrested tourists – about 27 from the United States, Spain, France, Great Britain, Switzerland and 80 from Peru itself – were several children.

“They are already returning to their places of origin,” Tourism Minister Roberto Sanchez told reporters in Lima.

Tourists on a riverboat were hijacked on Thursday by members of the Cuninico community who pressed for government intervention following the September 16 spill of 2,500 tonnes of crude oil into the Cuninico River.

Indigenous people free kidnapped tourists in the Peruvian Amazon
A photo released by Peru’s national oil company Petroperu shows workers trying to stop the flow of an oil spill in the Cuninico River, the main tributary that feeds the MaraƱon River, a major tributary of the Amazon River, in the jungle province of Loreto, Peru, on September 18, 2022. (Photo by Handout / Petroperu / AFP)

Community leader Watson Trujillo said Thursday that the community has taken “radical measures” to try to convince the government to send a mission to assess environmental damage in an area home to about 2,500 indigenous people.

On Friday, Peru’s human rights office said negotiations had led to Cuninico “accepting our request to release” the tourists.

“They are liberating us all,” Angela Ramirez, a Peruvian cyclist who was among the tourists, later told AFP via WhatsApp.

She added that there had been “a lot of anxiety, a lot of exhaustion” as the group awaited news of their fate and slowly began to run out of water and food during the 28-hour ordeal.

The September spill was caused by a rupture in the Norperuano oil pipeline, which is owned by state-owned Petroperu to transport crude oil from the Amazon region to the ports of Piura on the coast.

According to Petroperu, the leak was caused by an intentional 21 centimeter cut in the pipeline.

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